“Prisoners” Jails You in a No-Holds Bar Fashion (Film Friday #1)

Each Friday I will review movies that are new in theaters, new to me, or simply older films that I have enjoyed and would like to recommend to others. Obviously, I will not review films I hate because it would be a waste of time. If I hate them, why bother spending time discussing them?

For my first Film Friday post, I’ve selected the newly-released film, “Prisoners”. Enjoy!

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As expected, September gives its film lovers the chance to cleanse themselves of the uninspired and redundant movie season that is Summer. This month is the first of many that will give many cinemas across the globe freedom from reboots, remakes, rehashes, and the now-accepted void that is New Hollywood.

Thus, the first cleanse offered, in my opinion, is the newly-released film, “Prisoners”, starring  Oscar nominees Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Focusing on a parent’s worst nightmare, child abduction and possible murder, the film incessantly grabs you from the first frame to the last. Walking out of this film without any feelings of gut-wrenching or punching is impossible; unless, you are a complete sociopath intending to laugh at every scene.

Jackman, plays Keller Dover, a loving husband, father, and carpenter in trade, who, along with his wife, Grace (played by Maria Bello in an understandably catatonic state throughout the movie), and friends/neighbors, Franklin and Nancy Birch (played gracefully by Terrance Howard and Best Actress Oscar nominee Viola Davis), find their worlds turned upside down by the kidnappings of their youngest children after Thanksgiving dinner.

Seeking the help of Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki (No “Thor” jokes, please!), an officer seemingly dealing with demons of his own, the only information they have is the appearance and disappearance of a mysterious RV parked not far from the Birch home. A creepy man-child (played astonishingly by Paul Dano) is the prime suspect, questioned, held, and, of course, released after the required 48-hours. Without giving away spoilers, Jackman decides to place justice into his own hands.

While I understand his position as a desperate father, I cannot condone the behavior because of the fine line of criminality that Dover exhibits between protector of his child and sadist. “Prisoners” director, Denis Villeneuve, sharply presents that case because, as a viewer, you want the children found, but at the same time, you feel that you’re participating in a crime, while questioning whether or not the ends justify the means. More so, the Birches struggle to find which side of the coin they belong as well, and they often are the voices of reason. What follows Jackman’s actions is a film of welcomed twists and turns that, as cliche and trite as it sounds nowadays, truly leave you by the edge of your seat.

Therefore, I recommend this film (8 out of 10 Kashmirs). The performances are top-notch. Jackson never fails to deliver as he goes back and forth with both grief and depravity as he serves as the audience surrogate. While Gyllenhaal raises the bar as he plays the reluctant hero, both wary of the individuals involved and job weary, period. Plus, I did appreciate the nod to Gyllenhaal’s early work in the much underrated “Zodiac”. I will leave that nod unspoiled for those desiring to figure it out themselves. Last, but not least, I must give special applause to Paul Dano, who delivers the role as a constant enigma. Viewers never know if he’s a great deceiver or a victim himself.

While I cannot find fault with the film, the film’s ending is a cool smack to the face. While mildly annoyed, it was a taste of the unexpected and rarely used sublime. “Prisoners” is a must-see film of the Fall season.

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